Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Air Force Veteran Jim Estrada, who served as a radar technician during the Vietnam War era.
Jim Estrada was born in San Pedro, California, and had seven siblings. As a child, he earned good grades and had a passion to learn. He attended Abraham Lincoln High School. At age 14, he started his own car painting business, which earned him a steady income for three years. Once the Air Force contacted Estrada because of his successful enlistment test scores, he dropped out of high school during his senior year to enlist.
On Jan. 5, 1961, Estrada joined the Air Force at 17 years old. He attended Air Force technical training in Biloxi, Mississippi. He performed well in technical training and placed in the top 10 percent of his class, which would later influence him to pursue a college degree. Instead of becoming a technical training instructor in Biloxi, he committed to a field assignment.
As a radar technician, he served in Finland, Minnesota, from 1962 to 1963. In 1964, in preparation for war, he went to Southeast Asia to install radar equipment for air traffic control. That same year, he went to Bellville, Illinois, and married Sandra Garcia. In 1965, he honorably discharged from the military.
Estrada and Garcia moved to San Diego, California, and had two children. Estrada attended Mesa Community College, and then San Diego State University to earn a degree in journalism. He was a founder of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MECHA), which encouraged a community-involved college education. His passion for education would later influence his future career.
In 1971, he worked at a local TV station, KGTV. The owner of KGTV, McGraw-Hill Broadcasting, hired him as a sports photographer. Later, he managed the community relations department, where he integrated African American, Asian American and Latino communities into the station programing.
Estrada would go on to assist McGraw-Hill’s president and create several documentaries. Estrada created the first television series about Mexican Americans, which received the 1972 Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights Journalism Award. In 1975, he formed an advertising agency, Imagery. From 1982 to 1988, he worked as a regional advertising supervisor for the McDonald’s Corporation, then became manager of community relations for Anheuser-Busch. He created Estrada Communications Group, a public relations firm. His book, “The ABCs and N of America’s Cultural Evolution,” was published in 2013.
Estrada stated, “So I think that’s why I’m here. God has put me in different places at different times of my life, and I think I’m here right now to see how to help my community develop a voice.”
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Hannah Nelson
Editor: Julia Pack and Kristen Whitehurst
Fact checker: Ormina Naveed
Graphic artist: Helena Strohmier